1. Visit the Senate Employment Office
This office is located in Senate Hart Building Room 116 (first floor). Drop by the office with a few copies of your resume between 10 AM and 12 PM, or 2 PM and 4 PM. Tell them you’d like an informational interview. You’ll be asked to fill out some brief information, and then will meet with a staff member for about 15 minutes. During this time, s/he will ask you about your office preferences, salary requirements, interest areas, etc., give you advice about your resume, and then put your information into the resume bank that is available to Senate offices.
2. Set up informational interviews
This may feel awkward at first, particularly if you have never done an informational interview before. Rest assured that they are completely normal in the working world, and the more practice you have with them, the easier they are to do!
- What is an informational interview? Basically, this is a meeting between you and someone who works in the field you are interested in exploring. It’s a chance to get some feedback on your resume, have someone offer suggestions for other people to talk to, listservs to subscribe to, networking events to attend, skills to develop to make you more attractive as a candidate, or sometimes even recommendations for open positions in your field. An informational interview can be anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, but generally last around 20 minutes or so.
- How do I set up an informational interview? First of all, identify the people you want to meet with (more detailed information on this in the Networking section). Email is usually the preferred way to initiate contact with someone, particularly if you don’t know them personally. Identify yourself, establish any connection you may have with the person, and explain that you are interested in learning more about opportunities in their field. Mention one or two things about your background or experience, and then ask for an informational interview. Indicate when you are available, and then thank them for their time.
- How do I prepare for an informational interview? First of all, it is important to treat an informational interview as though it were an actual job interview in terms of presentation: this includes dressing appropriately, arriving on time, etc. Otherwise, you can prepare by doing the following:
- Self-reflection. This sounds corny, but is critical while job hunting. While many people believe they would be happy to accept any position on Capitol Hill, you are far more likely to get a position you are happy in and can excel in if you know what it is you want to do. Being a Legislative Assistant is very different from being a Legislative Correspondent, and working on a committee is very different from working for a personal office. (See the page on Capitol Hill Offices and Positions for guidance). If you tell people you are interested in “absolutely anything,” you run the risk of appearing to not have any idea of how things work on the hill or what the positions are. This makes it seem as though you haven’t done your homework.
- Practice your elevator pitch. This is crucial not just for informational interviews, but also for general “meeting and greeting” around Washington, D.C. You must be able to describe A) yourself, and B) what sort of job you are looking for --- all in twenty seconds.
Tip - Be specific: Capitol Hill staffers are frequently inundated with job openings, and it is extremely unlikely that you are going to meet someone who is willing to send you absolutely every opening that comes to their inbox. You will notice that most legislative staffers, particularly on the Senate side, have a group of related issues for which they are responsible. It will be harder for a staffer to pin down your specific interest area if you say you would like to work on defense, education, energy, and judiciary work. Instead, pick your one or two primary issues of interest. This way, when a position comes along dealing with those issues, the staffer is far more likely to send it to you, remembering that you wanted them specifically, than to send it to the 5 other job-seekers who said they would “take anything available."
Be sure to connect with as many people as possible. Reach out to your alumni association, the WCSA membership, other associations, and your professors and/or former employers/coworkers. Tip: be upfront about the fact that you are looking for employment. Too many people, especially interns, are hesitant to speak openly about the fact that they are looking for work, but if you aren't willing to talk about your job hunt, nobody will know you are interested in working on Capitol Hill!
4. Attend Events
Events are a great place to network, and there are lots of free events you can attend in Washington, D.C. See the websites/blogs below for ideas on where to go and what to do.